Most people use it because it makes them feel good. They have one or two, get what they want from it, and stop. Some others keep drinking, trying to increase the feelings (or cover up others). Then some may find that they have to use it to feel normal. Eventually they find they can’t stop without feeling as though they are going to die.
About 85-90% of people drink for reason number one, and that’s that. The others, who don’t choose to become addicted, develop a physical dependence on alcohol without knowing it. By the time they realize it, it is usually too late, and active measures are necessary to stop drinking and put their lives back together.
The thing that non-alcoholics are unable to grasp is that quitting is far, far more easily said than done. A man will never know what it’s like to deliver a baby, and a non-addict will never know what it’s like to try to overcome an addiction. Imagine trying to break any bad habit — we’ve all done it — and then imagine that every time you tried your body sent out emergency signals that put you in a condition of high stress and made you sick. That’s about as close as a non-addict can get.
A great resource to learn more about the disease of addiction, which is what alcoholism is (an addiction to alcohol), is hbo.com/addiction — a website of programming produced by HBO, The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, NIAAA and NIDA. It really helps family members grappling with a loved one’s alcoholism to understand the disease concept, and as you’ve described here so well, to understand how difficult it is to stop the addiction. Having said this, treatment is fully within the alcoholic’s control, and can offer them the road to a healthy, happy life!